Timberwolves host Thunder, Westbrook (Jan 13, 2017)
MINNEAPOLIS -- A tough four-game homestand for the Minnesota Timberwolves included the defensive-minded Utah Jazz, followed by a slight reprieve against the Dallas Mavericks before Minnesota was scheduled to host the top triple-double men in the NBA, James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
The Timberwolves kept Harden from a triple-double and, most importantly, beat the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. On Friday they will host Oklahoma City and Westbrook for the first time this season.
Minnesota hopes it can take what it learned against Harden and the Rockets and apply it Friday. The Timberwolves let a lead slip away against Houston before recovering and extending the advantage in the fourth quarter.
"We learned from our mistakes," Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns said. "We did a great job of staying disciplined. It was just a great game. Games like this, I can finally smile again. It was good to see us get the lead and keep building on it."
Towns posted his ninth straight double-double with 23 points and 18 rebounds. Ricky Rubio had 10 points and tied his career high and a franchise best with 17 assists. His steady play has helped the Timberwolves (13-26) maintain composure in the second half in back-to-back wins.
Andrew Wiggins scored 28 points for Minnesota and took the defensive responsibility against Harden, who had 33 points, six rebounds and 12 assists. In defending Harden, the Timberwolves might have a blueprint for trying to limit Westbrook.
"I thought overall, you're not going to be able to stop a guy like that, you have to make him work and I thought our guys did that," Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said about defending Harden. "Wiggins battled him the whole night and I thought him and Karl set the tone for us, and I thought they played very unselfishly."
Rubio will likely draw the assignment on Westbrook, who had his 18th triple-double on Wednesday in a win against Memphis. Westbrook tallied 24 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. His 18 triple-doubles are the most by any player since Magic Johnson during the 1981-82 season.
"I just read the game," Westbrook said. "You have to read it. Make plays and take what the defense gives you."
Westbrook has led the Thunder (24-16) to two wins against Minnesota this season in Oklahoma City. He had 28 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals in a 112-92 victory in November and followed with 31 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds in a 112-100 win on Christmas Day.
As big in those games was the play of reserve Enes Kanter. He averaged 20 points and seven rebounds in the two games. Kanter has become a valuable player for the Thunder, who have won three straight games. Kanter had 19 points and 13 rebounds on Wednesday.
"He's made a lot of strides," Oklahoma City coach Billy Donovan said. "He's done a better job. I think the one thing I've tried to discuss with Enes, you never want to get into a situation where you are taken off the floor because of your defense."
The Timberwolves could be without starting shooting guard Zach LaVine for a second straight game. He is listed as questionable with a left hip contusion. LaVine leads the NBA in minutes per game and is averaging 20.4 points per game.
Without LaVine on Wednesday, Brandon Rush started and contributed a season-high 12 points on four 3-pointers, and had three steals and two blocks. Shabazz Muhammad added 20 points off the bench.